This November: What’s Going on at our Place!

Can you believe it? Little Mack is old enough now to audition for our spring *melodrama!

Gawrsh! (as Goofy would say) There are oodles of goings-on going on at our place this fall. Oodles.

It has been some time since I’ve posted blog posts with any regularity, and I’ve been suffering from it. Not a physical suffering, of course, but a mentally-disconnected sort of uneasiness suffering. You know, kinda like when you realize that you might have left the iron on, and you are an hour away. There is a disturbance in the force. I am missing you gentle readers, and I’m missing the sharing of my life (such as it is!) in this space.

Am I missing Goofy? Meh. Not so much. Gawrsh.

As the days get shorter and the weather gets less pleasant, I’m forced (alas!) to be indoors more each week. My laptop is indoors, for example. Also, rooms that scream (bellow, actually) for cleaning. The telephone–into which I must speak to accomplish tasks and errands that need to be done–it’s inside, as well. Well–I do now own my own smart(ish) cell phone, with which I have a complicated love/hate relationship, still there are many things that can only be accomplished inside.

My new kitchen, which–truth is–we still haven’t finished? Guess what. It’s inside, too.

So–there are a wealth of tasks to labor at indoors, that’s my point. I think.

Here’s a thought-provoking tidbit: a friend wrote me a newsy email recently, tying it up neatly with the line “I hope you have time to do something today that makes you very happy.” As I labored about the tasks which needed to be done that didn’t exactly make me happy, I mused on this. What made me happy? What did I want to accomplish that day, that might spark happiness in me? Did I even know any more? My to-do lists these days are impressively long, after all. Long, long, loooooong.

But what makes me happy? Good question. It is easy to lose sight of this question, in the morass of responsibilities that a farm woman must tackle every day. What makes you happy, gentle reader? (I would love to hear about it in the comments below!)

I decided, as a type of experiment, to start with the tasks that Just Needed Doing, and then move to the happifying ones. Guess what? Big surprise: the indoor tasks were what I dug into. I worked harder than I really wanted to that day, but I did make some great inroads on some bothersome cleaning and organizing jobs inside. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I headed outside. I know this is no secret to you, gentle reader, but basically everything I do outside makes me happy.

I mowed a path for hubby, so his plowing would be easier = Happiness.

I tore down a couple rows of tomato cages and stacked them up in their special tidy winter stacking place. Grinning all the while. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ <—me

I lobbed a few rotten tomatoes at my cheeky son. Ecstasy! Joy unbridled! ๐Ÿ™‚

He lobbed some back. Of course. THOUGH I HAD UNWISELY DONNED MY WHITE SWEATER THAT AFTERNOON, we both had a merry war of sorts with faded, frozen and spent tomatoes. Saggy bags of ill-smelling juice, that’s what they were, in a nutshell. In a tomato skin, actually. We were both grinning like loons when we were finished, and my white sweater is probably ruined. That’s okay.

That sweater? It didn’t really make me very happy. ๐Ÿ™‚

More happy activity . . . I putzed around my lovely hoop house (I should name it “House of Happy”), uncovering beds and pulling a weed or two, watering, clicking my tongue over the darn slugs, checked for evidence of radishes germinating (none yet) = Elation!

Later: the radishes have germinated! Enough to feed the entire town! ๐Ÿ™‚ Yay!

Basically, anything I do outside makes me happy. Inside? These things, though possibly they don’t exactly make me happy, must be borne, and, if done quickly enough, allow me to return to my preferred place = outside.

And that brings me to . . .

The State of our Kitchen Remodel

*humble sigh* We took the last few months off (that sounds deliberate and intentional, right?) from doing any significant work on our kitchen remodel. I know, I know, I’ve gazed into enough befuddled, confused faces of dear ones who have asked (tactfully. . . most of them) how the heck the kitchen was coming along, anyway . . . ? to realize that to hit the pause button in the middle of a huge project like this is, well, in a word, odd. Untoward. Weird. Crazy.

But our outdoor projects take precedence during the growing months. And most months. ๐Ÿ™‚ Because 1) aforementioned happiness, and 2) we know that winter’s a-coming. From the month of March on, we are preparing for winter. Splitting and hauling firewood. Canning tomatoes. Building up the compost pile. Repairing the walls of the soddy. You know.

Here’s our place. Our little soddy on the windswept prairie of Nebraska. I was inside when this photo was taken, by the way, unhappily washing dishes. Forever washing those dishes. I wasn’t very happy about it. Did I mention that—? At least my little black piggy got to be outside. He always chases happiness, first and foremost. I could learn a lot from that little fella.

We have returned to working at least part of every weekend on my new lovely kitchen, though. I’m nearly finished with painting the pantry, for that matter, and we’ve got a date for the floor to be refinished. We are hiring that done, and we will need to empty out all the rooms that will be refinished–the big kitchen area, but also the dumping room, I mean, my studio, and the living room. *YIKES* Aaaand we’ll have to be out of the house for a few days. I haven’t told my folks yet that we are moving in with them for three days. (Sorry, Mom!)

Best to not have too much notice on these types of surprises, don’t you agree?

WHAT A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO CLEAN! hoots my good, clutter-weary hubby. Oh-kay–white flag!–I’m inside, aren’t I? I moan. I’m cleaning, I’m cleaning! Where’s the shovel, Mack? Where is the dumpster? I holler, from the depths of a slippery pile of old receipts, clothes (that date back to the first part of this century) that need mending, old magazines, and whatnot. Especially whatnot.

THEN–suddenly–I stop in my tracks, because: I REMEMBER: I prayed for this. I woke up in the night not long ago, and made my way through the stacks of boxes along one wall of our bedroom (yes, when we emptied out the kitchen for the remodel, it was all done in a slap-happy, much-rushed way, and we stashed boxes everywhere, even in our bedroom. They are still there.)

I prayed that very night to our merciful Father who, I am completely convinced, cares deeply about our stupid human mess down here, and about the troubling things that wake us up in the middle of the night: I’m desperate here, God. Help me clean up this mess!

And he answered my prayer, in a characteristically unusual and creative way.

This is how He answered my pitiful prayer: In Bryan’s beaming face, when he turned to me, from the ‘phone, and said “Hey, the floor guys are coming to refinish the floors in three weeks!”

Three weeks?!? Oh-kay, then. I am going to have to make time to clean and organize, to prepare for that. And then, we’ll move into our new kitchen–in time for Christmas, chickies! Woohoo!!

Woo–hoo . . .ย  (cue pitiful whimpering) Well. Let’s move on, mmmkay??

The kids

So much change in the kids department! *phew*

  • Matthew defends his dissertation the first week of December. What’s the title of his dissertation? Hmm, I’ll have to look it up again (as I do, every time somebody asks). He has been getting up every morning at 5:30 to work on it, and then he goes to work. He is papa to Wesley and Emmett, and hubby to artist-potter Rachel. You can look at her beautiful artwork right here. (Christmas is coming, folks!) Here it is: Matthew’s dissertation: “Why Rhetoricians Donโ€™t Get Religion: A Counter-History of Sacred Rhetoric.” What’s a Rhetorician? Don’t ask me, folks. I’ve been having to look up words that come out of this kid’s mouth since he was twelve. Not kidding. (Feeling like an idiot around your deep-thinking, well-read TWELVE YEAR OLD is not a laughing matter, actually.) Not to take even an iota of credit here (GOD IS GOOD) but if you wonder if a common dirt-farming woman without a teaching degree can teach her kids successfully in her little ole’ humble homeschool . . . well . . . It can be done, folks. It can be done.
  • Andrew and his lovely wife Sonia (all my boys married up–waaaaay up) moved to our hometown a month ago, bringing with them the brilliant small princesses, Anya and Eleanor. Eleanor is still not so sure about Amma, but Anya loves to spend time with us, which, of course, makes me very happy indeed. Andrew is working as a game designer and graphic artist, and is also a stay-at-home Dad. Sonia is working at a rehabilitation hospital in the city.
  • Bethanyย gave birth to baby Gideon on her very own birthday in August, and lives not too far from us. She is a busy mama, and also works as a Virtual Assistant for a few lucky bloggers (including yours truly!). Also she takes care of her hubby Saia, who is working full time and is preparing to apply to grad schools next fall, to work on his master’s degree in music composition and conducting. They have their hands full with that little man. Oh my, you better believe this Amma makes many special trips over there to chat with that little fella. ๐Ÿ™‚ And to nuzzle the back of his sweet little neck. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Timothy married the lovely Catie in October. They just got back from their honeymoon in Costa Rica! They are back in the city, not far from us, Timothy working as a web designer and coder, and Catie as a labor and delivery nurse.
bride and groom, siblings

Here they are, with their new sister, Catie. From left: Bethany, Andrew, Catie, Timothy, Matthew, Amalia, and little Mack. They clean up pretty well, don’t they??

  • Amalia is a freshman at a small college not far from us, and slipped into college life, surrounded by many of her dear and precious high school friends, as easily as a duck slips into water. Though she still struggles with health problems, chief among them frequent debilitating migraines, she is a courageous young lady who is succeeding at everything she sets her mind to. Despite the pain she lives with every day. She just performed in her first college play, is doing great in her classes, and is planning a trip to Europe next summer! Plus, she is an enormous blessing to us every time she deigns to spend a day or two at home (*hint, honey*).
  • Little Mack, bless him, is still home with Bryan and me. We worked pretty hard all summer to help Amalia get ready to go to college, and then we trundled her off and got her moved into the dorm, and then we drove home. And little Mack and I have stared at each other ever since, in confusion. It’s so quiet here. What now? It is a puzzlement. Mack is smart and stubborn and insightful and inventive. He longs for time with his siblings, and we try to make this happen as often as possible. He and I study together on our homeschool-cum-sunporch too, Latin and History, Creative Writing and Drawing, and Bible and Science and Math. All the things. And he auditioned for our sixteenth annual *melodrama, just last night. Sometimes I worry that I am not enough for this bright little kid. But then I remind myself that he has a lot of people in his life, not just me.

My Hoophouse

Here it is: my Happy Place. All the summer crops are cleaned out and the beds are replanted for winter production, and a brand new sheet of plastic is installed overhead. It doesn’t look like much right now, but you just wait!!

For a dizzyingly exciting couple of days, I thought I was going to get a real, bonafide green house. With a furnace, no less! Solid panels. A decent old wooden-framed greenhouse not far from us was being given away–given away!!–to the first person to commit to taking it all apart and moving it away–as soon as possible. For about twenty-four hours, Bryan and I were determined to do it. In my mind’s eye (I didn’t sleep much that night) I had it filled with plants and I was so excited about everything I was going to do with it! But when we really got over the excitement of the prospect, we realized that it wasn’t a feasible task for us. Maybe if all those big grown-up young-uns (shown above) were still here at home, we would have considered it. But for two old crabby and already-over-committed folks like us, it would have been an overwhelming job. That probably wouldn’t have been finished until we were both on our way to the nursing home. By somebody else. So we gave it a pass. ๐Ÿ™

But. I am still so happy to have my hoophouse, of course. We finally replaced the plastic this fall, before first frost, even! I have it nearly full now, of edible flower crops for winter, and tiny baby greens. This all makes me very happy. Everything I plant in there is an experiment, of course. It’s a worthy project to see what can grow under low tunnels, in a high tunnel, through a Nebraska winter. It’s also just a teensy bit stressful at times. No heat, ya know. Just the sun. And the sun doesn’t come out at all on some days in Nebraska, between December and February. But we’ll see.

But do you know what can relieve stress? A new critter to love.


Bryan–bless him, critter-weary as he is–did not want to keep a puppy. Mack and I felt differently, but we contented ourselves with enjoying Scout’s pups for the weeks that we had them. We agonized (privately) over not being able to keep one, but I felt that I owed it to my longsuffering hubby not to force yet another responsibility on him. Another mouth to feed.

It was hard for me not to selfishly try to plead my case, I promise! And I sold all five puppies, playing the dutiful wife. My heart wasn’t in it, but there was some satisfaction with checking out all the potential buyers to make sure that Scout’s pups were going to good homes. I had a feeling that if we had them long enough, Bryan would change his mind. But they had to be sold before they were very old, you know, and puppies grow incredibly quickly. Mack and I cried as each one left our place.

But then one day, amidst some other heart issue, I prayed a tiny little selfish prayer: “God, please let somebody renege on their plans to buy a puppy.” Nobody knew about this prayer but God and me. I didn’t tell Mack, because I knew it would break his heart if God didn’t answer the prayer in the affirmative. I didn’t tell Bryan, because–well, going over his head like that. #hmmm

And then, it happened: the person the least likely–in my human thinking–to change her plans, sent me a note: I can’t take the puppy Capone. I wasn’t approved to buy the house, and my apartment doesn’t allow puppies. Sorry.

Capone was nearly to the age where he needed to be in his “Forever Home.” I shared the news with Mack. He was jubilant and pleaded his case to Bryan. He would be responsible for training and caring for Capone, please–could he keep him? I stayed out of it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Dutiful me. (cough)

Bryan is a good man. His heart softened and he accepted the little cutie pie into our family.

We are actually all very happy about this! We looove Capone. And the neat thing is–we are not training him all on our own. We have an ally, of course, in his mama. She wants him to behave, too, as much as we do. This has been the most interesting thing for me to watch, not being around mama dog with her puppies before.

Chickens and the mink that ate them

At the beginning of this summer, I had a lot of chickens. And several ducks. A mink or some other devilishly clever critter got into my coop, again and again. Left piles of feathers out in the yard. Et al. At the end of the summer, I had only a few chickens. And no ducks. A depressing turn of events!

There has been a bit of hand-wringing in the chicken department lately, at our place and other places in our area. I wrote about all thisย  in another blog post recently.ย It seems that I’m not the only one in our area who has lost most of her flock, alas.

I only had a few Icelandic chickens left–and I really didn’t want to be done with them. I love my Icelandic chickens, for so many reasons. One stalwart little hen (Emma) was successful in hatching out four chicks, but the other two hens spurned motherhood. You can’t exactly force a hen to set, you know, if she doesn’t want to.

This Icelandic hen, Emma, is one of my especial favorites. Isn’t she pretty? I love the way she coordinated her stockings with her tail feathers.

So I gathered all the Icelandic eggs for a couple of weeks. I then a. put them in our old incubator, which–I found out a few days later–was no longer working consistently. Old incubator went into the trash. Secondly I b. Borrowed an incubator from a chicken-loving friend. I collected eggs again, and put them into this incubator, once I figured out how to work it. During the night, it shorted out. I tried again. Finally I gave up on it, and c. I ordered a new incubator. I saved a week’s worth of eggs again, and set them into the new incubator. Finally. After three weeks of careful watching, they hatched. I have six sweet little chicks now–in the house, for now!–so my Icelandic flock is on the way back. A few chicks at a time.


I think this is the longest blog post I’ve ever written. Gawrsh!! I apologize, gentle readers. I hope you are doing well and I’d LOVE to hear about the goings-on in your neck of the woods, in the comments below!

Take care!







17 thoughts on “This November: What’s Going on at our Place!

  1. Hope Goodwin

    If you ever feel up to sharing pics of the kitchen in progress, I for one would love to see them. If your kitchen will be functional for you and your family, it’s beautiful.

  2. Patty

    I enjoy your posts, I think we would be friends if we lived closer. I find it hard to get all the chores done these days.
    I am mother to 5 of my own sweeties and step to five more. We have 18 grands and one on the way. We still have a beautiful red headed 13 year old girl at home.
    We have 17 chickens a 120 ft. by 60 ft. garden, a full pantry, two dogs, several cats, until recently 3 steer. We live in rural Idaho on 8 acres. I am married to a sweet man, who says I am ruining his reputation by letting this part of his personality out. He is a “ruggedly handsome” farmer. We are trying to update an old farm house that was built in 1953. We have a lot in common, wish you the best.

  3. rita penner

    ha ha, what Hope Goodwin said.

    In my neck of the woods, we’ve had chicken woes too but much slower. My flock of 5 dwindled slowly down to 1 as of May 2017. There was a variety of causes I suppose, though none of them predator related. I worried that one hen would be a lonely girl but she seemed to be fine with losing her only remaining longtime friend. However, I knew we had to fix this by winter because she certainly wouldn’t be happy to go through a winter, spent mostly in the henhouse, alone. I had a couple of plans but each one fell through. Then our local fall fair had 11 ‘chicks’ (laying already!) that needed homes. I volunteered to take 3. Now the henhouse is home to a mostly happy flock of four. One of the three, Katie, isn’t terribly fond of Nanna Chicken (my old girl). Perhaps they will make peace. fingers crossed.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Fingers crossed from down here, too, Rita! I think Nanna will be happy to have some coop mates, once the winter descends! I am guessing your winters are even colder and snowier than ours here in Nebraska . . . ?!

  4. William

    There is a place a couple of miles from here that will rent Maria their incubator and I believe she presently has 30 eggs there. It seems that whenever she has eggs in the incubator, two or three of her hens will also decide that it is time to sit on their eggs. I have mixed feeling about all this. She gives away to friends and family the extra roosters once they have grown. She gives away the eggs, well a lot of them anyway. That’s all good because it makes her happy. The part that hurts is that it seems like ever other day she asks me for money for chicken food. The eggs that I enjoy for breakfast are the most expensive eggs I have ever enjoyed.
    I think you have a short but interesting book in the making. The adventures of remodeling a kitchen in an old Midwest railroad station or ticket house or what is the name?
    Sorry about the loss of your flock. We have a hawk in the area and must be very careful with our little ones.
    On a brighter note, one of my doctors has restricted my animal intake to Farm raised free range chickens. No beef or pork and only some wild caught fish. So my lovely Maria now has another “free” customer for her chickens. It appears that all the nice plump ones are personal pets of hers so I might need two others just to make a nice pot of bone broth. We will see that happens.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Chef, I think you have a long and fascinating book in the making, yourself. . . let’s see . . . so much material . . . titled something like “Adventures with Maria and her Chickens” or “Never let your wife learn about chickens” or “Chickens, chickens, everywhere and not a bite to eat” . . . hmm . . . !

  5. gene

    Amy –
    You forgot to mention that another of your “favorite things” is writing. And then there are all the lovely photos you share on Instagram and Facebook! And the fact that you keep a local geezer farmer supplied with warm loaves of bread most Tuesday mornings. (Absolutely the best bread I eat every week!)

    I love William’s comments above! Some years ago – when we first moved from the city to a “real farm” my oldest son gifted me with a box of 25 baby chicks. Never mind that I had nowhere to raise them, and wasn’t particularly interested in raising critters. So . . . one of my helpers – a very dextrous young woman – built me a chicken tractor and I bought the feeders, waterers and other things necessary to raise meat chickens. And bags of chicken feed, even though we moved that stupid chicken tractor twice a day and tried to keep it in areas where there were lots of grasshoppers and other bugs. Long story shortened – being a businessman with a passion for keeping track of things (like costs) on spreadsheets, when all was said and done, I calculated that the chickens we consumed had cost me roughly $12 per pound!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Haha! That’s a great story, Gene! I still think you’d enjoy a few Icelandics strutting around your place, though . . . just sayin’ . . . so where IS that old chicken tractor now??

  6. Ole Mother Hubbard

    I love your updates. It has been so fun to see your family grow and change especially as my own five are growing up so fast! Everyone warned us that it would happen, but I must say (in my experience) the first 10 years go at a seemingly normal pace, but the next 10 years fly by exponentially! So sorry about your chickens. I so enjoy my small flock of 7. Had a mama fox hoping for some tasty chicken dinner all summer, but so far theyโ€™ve been spared. Outside is my favorite place to be too. I do enjoy my garden, but also love backpacking, hiking, canoeing in the Boundary Waters, especially when all the kids are with us. Keeping up with our home can be a challenge, but the kids will be the first to tell you, that everything that we havenโ€™t used in the last 5 minutes is in the burn pile…quite possibly already ashes. My poor hubby…if itโ€™s not nailed down or put away itโ€™s a goner.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Ole M: I am so grateful that you took the time to write this comment on this day. I badly need to toss more, toss quicker, toss, toss, toss. Your words have been in my heart ever since I read them. I am a sentimental saver, but there is hope for me: when I start the tossing process, it becomes easier. And the older I get, the more necessary it is to toss! Thank you and blessings on your brood!

  7. Kay

    Around the Prairie Farm a few miles north and east of you: New job in September, one that I love. I prayed for one just like a friend had and ended up with that job. God works in mysterious ways.
    2. Tomatoes came on really late and then had blight and I ended up with only a few canners of salsa and juice. It was a bad tomato year.
    3. Had a window in our living room malfunction. it was cracked on the inside glass by a technician. It is still cracked and we can’t find a local company that will come and honor the warranty and fix it!! Thankfully it is not leaking cold air.
    4. Spent time with OUR wonderful local grandson (will be 1 yo on Dec. 17) and having fun watching him learn to crawl, scoot, stand and soon-Walking! He loves his board books A Lot! And small cars and chewy animals.
    5. Farm harvest went well and is over. Farm year is mostly over for 2017. He needs to bring home the cattle from the rented pasture and we can all be snuggled in for the winter.
    6. Thanksgiving with the local kids.
    7. My dad’s passing. Ohio kids here. Spending time with family.
    8. So looking forward to Christmas and that joy & hope.
    9. Eagerly waiting for grandbaby #7, due in April.
    Life is not boring. Tiring sometimes, but never boring. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Kay, my goodness, grandbaby #7! How blessed you are!

      And, my friend, I am so sad about your dad’s passing. *hugs*

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